White House urged to submit 9/11 documents
Federal commission considering subpoenas if necessary
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Two prominent senators called on the White House on Sunday to release documents to a federal commission probing the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
"The American people deserve some answers," said Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, co-sponsor of the bill that created the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, urged it to subpoena White House officials if necessary.
"The fact that the Bush administration is not cooperating with a commission investigating how September 11 happened is outrageous," said Lieberman, a Democratic presidential candidate.
"What are they hiding? What's on the line here is finding out everything we can about how September 11 happened so we can make sure we do everything to see that it never happens again."
A spokesman for the commission, led by former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, said members were considering subpoenas if the White House refused to turn over classified documents.
"It's not a means that you want to use lightly or overuse," said Al Felzenberg. "It is an instrument we have at our disposal."
The White House "believes it is being fully cooperative with the commission," spokesman Jimmy Orr said.
Hagel said White House aides should take advantage of an opportunity "to come forward with the requested documentation.
"It's definitely in their interest -- certainly in the interest of this country," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"Americans and our allies across the globe must have confidence in our leadership. They must trust our processes. And that certainly includes our intelligence community's results."
In past months, the commission has complained that several federal agencies were slow in turning over requested documents.
Felzenberg said there was some impatience on the part of the commission to get all the necessary documents because members "take the job seriously" and have a May deadline to meet.
A congressional investigation into the attacks has largely explored counterterrorism lapses, such as the CIA and FBI failing to share information or "connect the dots" between bits of intelligence obtained from monitoring al Qaeda.
Felzenberg said the 10-member commission also wants to hold more focused hearings to determine if there were intelligence or law enforcement failures in the months leading up to the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
"To have those, we have to get through these piles of material and to start writing a report that is a definitive account of the events of 9/11. We need the evidence. We need the data," he said.
"Both sides are negotiating in good faith, but at some point there needs to be an end to negotiations about process and a focus on progress," Felzenberg said.
He acknowledged that issuing subpoenas may not result in a more rapid release of the documents and said commission members have not decided whether to issue them.
"They have not reached that decision now," Felzenberg said. "Negotiations are in their final stage and we hope they're resolved quickly.
"We hope that we get access to the material we need in a very timely manner."
He said Kean "wants this resolved because he wants to get on to substantive issues, not procedural issues."
The law that created the commission last fall mandates nine areas of inquiry, including terrorist financing and aviation security.
CNN's Kathleen Koch contributed to this report.